GHALIBIANA (some famous anecdotes)

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Some anecdotes contained in the commentary on verses:

{5,1}, about a single verse for which he would trade his whole divan
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{15,10}, on the miseries and terrors of a leaky roof in the monsoons
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{20,8}, clever wordplay with the King about keeping the fast of Ramzan
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{20,11}, about whether Ghalib is a saint, and whether the King knows it
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{22,2}, how he refused a fine position teaching Persian at Delhi College 
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{26,1}, his literary losses and sufferings during the Rebellion
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{36,9}, about a donkey who doesn’t eat a mango
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{49,2}, ‘the white man’s prison and the black man’s prison’
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{95,1}, his extemporaneous ode to a betel-nut
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{97,1}, on whether he should be counted as a ‘rebel Muslim’ or not
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{139,1}, the famous reference to a Domni who died of love for him
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{174,4}, a beautiful act of generosity
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{175,6}, an anecdote that mocks Ghalib’s ‘difficult’ poetry
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{208,9}, an anecdote about whether the poet is a Muslim or not
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{234,9}, about the deadly, patron-killing power of Ghalib’s odes
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Another anecdote about language involving Mirza Sahib is famous. In Delhi, some people treat rath [cart] as feminine, and some as masculine. Someone asked Mirza Sahib, ‘Your Excellency! Is “cart” feminine, or masculine?’ He said, ‘My friend! When women are seated in the cart, then treat it as feminine, and when men are seated in it, then consider it masculine.’ ==Urdu text: p. 28 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


[When the British retook Delhi after the Rebellion of 1857, he was taken before a British officer who asked him if he was a Muslim.] Mirza said, ‘Half’. The Colonel said, ‘What does that mean?’ Mirza said, ‘I drink wine; I don’t eat pork’. Having heard this, the Colonel began to laugh.
==Urdu text: p. 39 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


[A scurrilous attack on Ghalib had been published.] Someone said, ‘Your Excellency! You haven’t written any answer to it.’ Mirza said, ‘If a donkey kicks you, then will you kick him back?’
==Urdu text: p. 49 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib
==Azad’s version: Pritchett and Faruqi, p. 507


[A Maulana came to visit,] and when he saw Mirza playing chausar during the month of Ramzan he said, ‘In the Hadiths I’ve read that during the month of Ramzan, Satan is imprisoned, but today I’ve begun to doubt the truth of that hadith.’ Mirza said, ‘Your Worship! The hadith is entirely true, but you should realize that the place where Satan is imprisoned is this very chamber.’
==Urdu text: p. 68 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


One day during the mango season the late Bahadur Shah was strolling with some companions [in a garden full of mangoes]. From time to time Mirza looked attentively at a mango. The king asked, ‘Mirza, what are you looking at so attentively?’ Mirza replied with folded hands, ‘My Lord and Guide, some poet has said that every fruit has written on it the name of its destined eater and his ancestors. I’m looking to see whether my and my ancestors’ names are written on any of the fruit.’ The king smiled, and that same day caused a number of very fine mangoes to be sent to Mirza.
==Urdu text: p. 70 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


In no way was Mirza’s temperament ever satiated with mangoes. People in the city sent them as gifts, he himself had them brought from the market, mangoes came from distant places as presents, but Mirza’s soul was not satisfied. [One day some friends who were gathered began to discuss mangoes]; each one was giving his opinion about what virtues they ought to have. When they had all expressed their views, then Maulana Fazl-e Haq said to Mirza, ‘Give your opinion too.’ Mirza said, ‘My friend, in my view only two things are necessary in mangoes: they should be sweet, and they should be numerous.’
==Urdu text: pp. 70-71 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


One time, at night, he was lying on a cot, looking at the sky. Seeing the apparent disorder and lack of arrangement of the stars, he said, ‘The task done out of self-will is usually done in a disorderly way. Look at the stars—how badly they’re scattered around! No order, no arrangement; neither pattern nor design. But the King has the right over everything; no one can breathe a word.’
==Urdu text: pp. 72-73 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


One day the late Sayyid Sardar Mirza came in the evening. After a little while, when he was preparing to leave, Mirza himself with his own hands brought a candle over by the edge of the carpet, so that he would have light for putting on his shoes. He said, ‘Your Worship, why have you taken the trouble? I would have put my shoes on by myself.’ Mirza said, ‘I brought the candle not to show you your own shoes, but for fear you might put on mine by mistake!’
==Urdu text: p. 73 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


About wine, his witty remarks are very famous. One person in his presence vigorously denounced wine, and said, ‘The prayers of wine-drinkers are not granted.’ Mirza said, ‘My friend, he who has been vouchsafed wine—what else does he need, that he would pray for?’
==Urdu text: p. 73 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


Mirza’s wife, who was the daughter of Alahi Bakhsh Khan Ma'ruf, was extremely pious and abstemious and strictly devoted to prayer....so much so that wife’s and husband’s eating and drinking utensils were kept separate. Nevertheless, the wife never ceased to serve her husband and care for him. Mirza Sahab always remained in the men’s quarters, but his food and drink, etc., were arranged within the house [by his wife]. As long as he had the strength to walk and move about, Mirza always, at a fixed time, went daily to [his wife’s part of] the house. And he treated his wife and all her relatives extremely well.
==Urdu text: p. 96 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


[Learning of a friend who had been widowed twice and wished to marry again, Mirza wrote in a letter,] ‘Hearing about Umra'o Singh’s situation, I feel compassion on his behalf, and envy on my own. My God—he is one whose fetters have been cut twice! And here am I, who have had the hangman’s noose around my neck for more than fifty years—and neither does the noose break, nor does the breath quite leave my body!’
==Urdu text: p. 97 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


Once in the winter, a parrot’s cage was before him. Because of the cold, the parrot sat with his head tucked under his wing. Seeing this, Mirza said, ‘Friend Parrot! You have neither wife nor children—why should you sit there with your head bowed, in such a careworn state?’
==Urdu text: p. 97 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


One day Mirza’s pupil and follower came and said, ‘Your Excellency, today I went to the tomb of Amir Khusrau. By the tomb there’s a khirni tree. I ate quite a number of its fruits. As soon as I had eaten them, it was as if the door of eloquence and rhetoric opened. Just see how eloquent I’ve become!’ Mirza said, ‘Ar√©, my friend, why did you go six miles? Why don’t you eat the berries from the pipal tree in my back courtyard? You would have obtained fourteen grades of illumination!’
==Azad: Pritchett and Faruqi, p. 507


To be continued...

 

 
 
 
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